With question marks surrounding the start of the 2021 tennis season, Rafael Nadal urged patience over the arrangements for the Australian Open.

The 20-time Major winner lost his last-four match at the ATP Finals in London on Saturday.

The Spaniard, who has never won the elite eight-man event, was beaten 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 by in-form Russian Daniil Medvedev, who will play Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s final.

Australian tennis chiefs this week flagged “new challenges” around the arrival of players for the first Grand Slam of the year during the coronavirus pandemic.

In correspondence with players, the ATP – the men’s tennis tour – said arrivals originally planned for December were now uncertain, potentially disrupting the packed January schedule.

With players facing a 14-day quarantine, any delay could make it difficult to hold the high-profile ATP Cup and other tournaments before the scheduled start of the Australian Open in Melbourne on January 18.

It is also unclear whether players will be allowed to train during their quarantine.

Nadal, who did not travel to New York for the US Open this year, was asked after his defeat by Medvedev whether there were any circumstances under which he would not travel to Melbourne.

“I don’t know what’s the situation going to be yet,” he said. “We need to wait about what the (state) government there in Victoria says.

“We can’t do much from ATP position or just wait. We have nobody to say what they feel is better for his country.

“We just need to be patient and accept the situation that we are facing. That is difficult for everyone. We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”

Nadal said players and tournaments were in an unusual situation after so much disruption as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Hopefully with the vaccine, that ends soon and we can come back at least to close to normal in a couple of months, but now is a difficult situation,” he said.

This year’s Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War as a result of Covid-19 while the French Open, which Nadal won, was pushed back four months to September/October.

Decision ‘soon’ says tournament chief

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley said Sunday he expected “decisions soon” on arrangements for the tournament after reports said it could be shifted from its usual January slot.

Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving in Australia from mid-December so they could undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine before playing traditional warm-up events before the Grand Slam.

But that plan was thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews, particularly since Melbourne only recently emerged from a months-long lockdown to eliminate a second wave of Covid-19.

Andrews reportedly only wants players to arrive from early January, which would make it all but impossible to hold the high-profile ATP Cup and other tournaments before the scheduled start of the Open on January 18.

It also remains unclear whether players will be allowed to train during quarantine.

“Tennis Australia is doing everything we can to finalise the summer of tennis as soon as possible,” Tiley said in a statement.

“We are working closely with the Victorian government on a plan that takes into account the needs of the players, fans, our partners and staff, and is of major benefit to the Victorian and Australian economy.

“We are continuing our urgent talks with local health authorities regarding quarantining and bio-security requirements and are confident we will have decisions soon.”

The Melbourne Age newspaper said it understood the Open would likely be delayed by one or two weeks, with February 1 emerging as a possible start date.

But the Melbourne Herald Sun said it could be pushed back as far as early March.

“Tennis Australia is acutely aware of the need for certainty, but also conscious of reaching a solution with the state government that ensures the safety of the entire community,” said Tiley.

(With AFP inputs)